You can’t talk about film without talking about Germany.
I’ve co-produced a film in Germany, and was tremendously impressed by the sheer size of the industry and the skill of the professionals working in it.
It’s probably the largest, most dynamic film industry in Europe.
During a stay in Berlin years ago, I had the opportunity to discover many fabulous films.
My favorite experience was of watching “Oh boy” at the Freiluftkino (open air cinema) in Kreuzberg, one of Berlin’s coolest neighborhoods.
Some of the greatest masters of the art of moving images came from the land of Goethe and Schiller.
But hey, German movies aren’t just important from a historic standpoint, they’re also a fun and useful resource for German learners!
Okay, so you might hear the words “German film” and instantly think of Herzog, Fassbinder and other “brainy” filmmakers.
But I’ve got news for you: Whatever kind of movies you love, Germans have made them and done a great job of it!
Germans produce films and TV in many popular genres, including horror, comedy and science fiction.
Plus, films are simply ideal for learning German.
I actually think the improvement of my German during my stay in Berlin is owed more to the movies I watched there than to having held conversations in German!
Benefits of Watching German Films on Netflix
Wherever you may be in the world, chances are you only hear about German films after they’ve received an Oscar nod, like blockbusters “Good Bye, Lenin!” or “Das Leben der anderen” (The Lives of Others).
But fortunately, Netflix has expanded all over the world incredibly fast. Thanks to this expansion, the company is now offering more and more foreign films every day, and German films are no exception.
This is great news for German learners, as the benefits of watching films to learn German are manifold.
- Original language films with subtitles are great for language learners. If your German is from intermediate to advanced, there are lots of films you can watch with closed captions in German, which is even better. As Netflix offers many subtitle options, it’s an ideal platform for language learners.
- You have the ability to rewind and replay to learn vocabulary. You may prefer to watch the whole movie without stopping it the first time around, but if you found some cool slang in it that you wish you could learn, Netflix allows you to scroll through the movie to find it and replay it to your heart’s content.
- You’ll learn colloquial German and common expressions. Other than visiting a German-speaking country, there’s no better way to learn slang and colloquial language than watching movies. I cannot say enough about this, as I’ve learned half the languages I know almost exclusively from watching movies. Books often teach you expressions that people seldom use, while contemporary movies offer you a more current and real-life version of the language.
- You’ll get access to a great selection of quality films. Netflix offers a curated collection. As such, it leans toward the side of quality. Entertaining films can make learning fun, and Netflix is one of the world’s top choices when it comes to entertainment today.
9 Fabulous German Movies on Netflix to Improve Your Deutsch in 2020
Very rarely, films manage to capture the essence of an era. “Good Bye, Lenin!” which portrays the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall, is one of them.
It’s built around a hilarious premise: A woman is in a coma when the wall falls, and her son wants to pretend nothing has happened when she wakes up. The film has lots of great comedic moments, but also many moments that are moving and dramatic. It really is a jewel of a movie, and it served to launch Daniel Brühl’s international acting career.
In terms of language, it’s highly approachable and recommended for all German learners.
2. “Das Leben der Anderen” (The Lives of Others)
“Das Leben der Anderen” is truly a masterpiece and a rightful Oscar winner. It tells the story of an informer living in the Soviet Occupation Zone of Germany. More than portraying the evils of a controlling state, it’s a film that raises important questions about morality and trust.
Is it ever justified to spy on people? When regimes pass, should people pay for the sins committed in the sphere of the state? Ultimately, it’s a film about good, evil and the blurry lines in between.
If you’re a beginner, you’ll probably get lost at certain points, but that shouldn’t deter you from enjoying this amazing film.
3. “Die Welle” (The Wave)
How did Hitler convince people? Is it possible to do what he did? A professor does an experiment at a university to try to answer these questions. Naturally, the experiment gets out of hand.
This immensely popular film is about the big questions of life. It has deep philosophical implications and will probably alter the way you view mass phenomena forever.
The film offers some complex discussions that may be harder to follow, but also slang and language spoken by young people.
Learning this type of language is especially useful, and by now you probably realize that learning German isn’t just about cramming grammar, it’s about understanding the language as it’s actually used every day.
These movies on Netflix are a great start, and you can continue to expose yourself to real-world German with FluentU.
FluentU is one of the best websites and apps for learning German the way native speakers really use it. FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Watch authentic media to simultaneously immerse yourself in the German language and build an understanding of the German culture.
By using real-life videos, the content is kept fresh and current. Topics cover a lot of ground as you can see here:
Vocabulary and phrases are learned with the help of interactive subtitles and full transcripts.
Hovering over or tapping on any word in the subtitles will automatically pause the video and instantly display its meaning. Interesting words you don’t know yet can be added to a to-learn list for later.
For every lesson, a list of vocabulary is provided for easy reference and bolstered with plenty of examples of how each word is used in a sentence.
Your existing knowledge is tested with the help of adaptive quizzes in which words are learned in context.
To keep things fresh, FluentU keeps track of the words you’re learning and recommends further lessons and videos based on what you've already studied.
This way, you have a truly personalized learning experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or practice anytime, anywhere on the mobile app for iOS and Android.
4. “3 Türken & ein Baby“ (Three Turks and a Baby)
Are you ready to learn German and laugh so hard your ribs will hurt? Well, “3 Türken & ein Baby” is the film for you.
This hilarious comedy film follows three brothers whose lives get turned upside down when one brother has to care for the baby of an ex-girlfriend after she gets hospitalized. Starring prolific actor Kostja Ullmann and German rapper Eko Fresh, the three brothers must put aside their own problems—stemming from bad financial choices, bad luck and Ullmann’s character’s womanizing—to care for something other than themselves.
This film also draws heavily on the experience of immigrant Turkish families in modern-day Germany. I recommend this film for intermediate or advanced learners because the three brothers use a fair amount of slang.
Speaking of hilarious movies, “Lommbock” is also a great choice for a good laugh. Be warned, however! This film can get a little, um… raunchy.
“Lommbock” follows Stefan, a successful lawyer who thinks he finally has his life in order: He’s found a beautiful woman to marry him in Dubai and he’s been clean of drugs for many years. Before he can marry the woman of his dreams, he must return to Germany to get some documents in order. Enter Stefan’s old friend Kai: the man who threatens to turn Stefan into a sleazy bad boy all over again!
While this film can definitely ride the line of racy humor, Stefan and Kai’s relationship matures quite a bit as it is revealed that Kai is also in need of getting his life in order. I recommend this movie for intermediate learners—and definitely for adults only!
6. “Das Attentat — Sarajevo 1914″ (Sarajevo)
Historical buffs will love this film, which translates literally to “The Assassination Attempt” in English.
In case the city of Sarajevo or the year 1914 doesn’t sound familiar, these are the details of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, the event that launched Europe into World War 1.
This movie is a historical drama, drawing on the actual event but also fabricating some details for the sake of film. The main character, Leo Pfeffer, is a magistrate and must find the culprits of Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. As World War 1 threatens to break out, our main character uncovers that the officially released story of Ferdinand’s assassination is not the truth: rather, it is a ploy for Austria-Hungary to go to war against rival Serbia.
This movie is a period piece that is perfect for intermediate learners.
Have you ever had such a messy break-up that you wanted to kidnap your ex and extort their rich family for money?
Well, neither have I, but it sure makes for an action-packed film!
In this remake of the British film “The Disappearance of Alice Creed,” two men, Vic and Tom, kidnap Stella, the daughter of a rich investor and Tom’s ex-girlfriend, in order to get money for ransom. As Stella proves to be a difficult victim and Tom becomes increasingly more disillusioned with the ransom, the story becomes complicated as Vic refuses to stop his get-rich-quick scheme.
This movie is ideal for intermediate learners as it uses a lot of colloquial language often employed by trendy German youth.
8. “Alles ist gut” (All Is Well)
In 2018, Eva Trobisch won the Stockholm Film Festival award for Best Director for her film, “Alles ist gut,” and it’s not hard to understand why.
In this heart-wrenching drama, the main character Janne is sexually assaulted by her boss’ brother-in-law. While she vows to live in silence and not to tell anyone about what has happened to her, the incident festers within her, complicating her work, her day-to-day life and her relationship with her lover, Piet.
This film is a true cinematic masterpiece. The cinematography is expertly done, and of course, the German dialogue is elegant and poignant. Trust me, there’s a reason this film has a coveted 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
In 2013, Felix Starck spent a year traveling 11,185 miles across 22 countries on four continents by bike.
Yes, you read that correctly.
“Pedal the World” is the documentary film about that year and all the amazing—and sometimes tricky—experiences he had. In addition to the physical demands of such a feat, Felix films it all himself. He often reflects on his upbringing, being a young person in the modern world and the meaning of life, all while leveraging his social media presence and the help of those he meets along the way to cycle around the world.
Thank goodness Netflix just keeps adding more German gems to their digital library.
Whether you end up tracking down one of our past picks or click away to stream a current offering right now, I hope I’ve succeeded in inspiring you to enjoy some German cinema.
There’s no better way to improve your German!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.